Homestead

Chickens, Greenhouses, Consulting

Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my grandparents' 20-acre farm in Ottsville, Bucks County, PA.  They purchased the raw land in the 1960's and built a house on it.  The property has a pond, maybe 100 feet in diameter, and it always stays full because it is fed by an active stream.  I went ice skating on it during the winters.  They raised beef in the lower fields and watered the animals using the water from the stream that runs through the property.  It was only a sunny, but I caught my first fish out of that pond. 

My grandparents were born a few years before the Great Depression and I frequently to ask them questions about their perspective on modern society.  They lived through World War 2, Vietnam, 9/11, and Barrack Obama.   Recently, the conversation turned to water management and I brought up their pond.  It turns out that building small ponds was a popular thing to do after World War 2.  Today, who knows how many permits and inspections you need, and from which bureaucratic agency. 

By now everyone has heard about using solar energy to generate power.  Sometimes, you heat water and circulate it using a pump.  Other times, you capture electricity and store it in batteries for later, or sell it back to the grid.

My First Kit: Good for camping

Kit consists of:

During a recent rainstorm, we had multiple inches come down over the course of a few hours.  A rush of water coming down from the street caused our perimeter drain to start filling up with dirt, so we added a "keyline" uphill from the drain to divert water away from the problem area before it even got close. 

Wednesday, 02 December 2015 13:36

“Dirt Rich” Community Composting Program

We are working with a handful of neighbors to get a small-scale community composting program started.  The following text is copied from a Word Document that you can download below as an attachment. We encourage everyone to participate in a community program like this, at some level.  Even if you're not gardening at home, you are still producing food scraps! 

Tired of hauling water and stomping ice out of containers?  I have the solution.

Background:
This is our first attempt at raising pigs in the back yard.  We built a basic fence and pig house, got the pigs, and started feeding and watering them.  We were hauling 5 gallon buckets of water for a short time before we realized a better solution was in order.  We have two of these 275-gallon water totes: one under our deck that hooks up to the gutter, and another down by the pigs.  We fill the one using rain water and then use a long hose to fill up the other tank down by the pigs.  No more carrying water!  The hardest part was figuring out how to keep the whole thing from freezing solid during the winter, as it typically hits single digits in January and February here in Northeast PA.

Caution:
Since water and electricity do not mix well, it is important that you install a ground rod next to your tank.  I installed my ground rod about 3 feet away from my tank and ran a long copper wire up the side of the tank and down into it.  If you are not comfortable installing a ground rod yourself, have an electrician come do it for you.  This way, if something goes wrong with one of the electric heaters, it will not shock us or the pigs.  Be sure to check your wires regularly (every few months, at least) and replace things before they wear out. 

We have been fortunate enough to have a neighbor that was willing to let us expand our backyard homestead operation onto their property.  They were concerned about us developing the property and claiming "squatters rights" to it, so they asked that we write up a contract for everyone to sign.  The purpose of sharing this document is so that other folks, who are interested in homesteading and sustainable agriculture, can work together and do the same thing while protecting themselves legally.

Note: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015 11:04

Product Review: PFERD Chain Sharp®

There are a lot of DC and AC-powered saw sharpeners available, and they seem nice, but I didn't want to buy one.  Mainly because I can bring a chain into the local shop and they will sharpen it for about $6.  And for $6, you walk out with a chain that is "like new."  However, they can only sharpen a chain 5 times using their big machine before there is no more teeth remaining.  I wanted a sharpening solution that would accomplish a few things:

  • It must work without electricity.  I don't want to bring a battery, inverter, or need to stand near my truck in order to sharpen my chain. 
  • It must be simple to operate.  I am not a professional lumberjack and never intend to be. 

To the right, you’ll see the chicken coop that my wife and I built ourselves. We’ve been working on it over the last year or so, making adjustments and enhancements, so I want to write about what we’ve learned. We refused to spend hundreds of dollars on just their coop so we got some free pallets from down the street and scavenged for scrap wood.

I’ve suffered from seasonal allergies for over 15 years. When I was a teenager, I had prescription-strength nasal spray, eye drops, and pills (Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra). All of these were somewhat helpful in addressing the symptoms I encountered: sneezing, itchy, puffy, watery eyes. When it got bad, I would rub my eyes so much that they would swell shut.

On Health, Honey:

A few years ago I started paying attention to eating healthy foods (non-GMO, organic, that sort of thing) and one of the topics that came up was that of eating local, raw honey to combat seasonal allergies.

Friday, 05 December 2014 17:34

Product Review: Berkey Water Filter

We have been using our Royal Berkey Water Filter for 10 months now, and I wanted to post some quick feedback.

Where we live, most of our neighbors have well water.  Our place is one of the "lucky few" to have city water.  So, when people used to come over and drink our tap water, they usually made "that face."  They tasted the chlorine right away.

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  • “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks…will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered…. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

    – Thomas Jefferson in the debate over the Re-charter of the Bank Bill (1809)